Avella introduces stringent ethics reforms proposals

By Madina Toure

At a news conference last week, state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) unveiled a series of ethics reform proposals, as well as going over some which he had planned to pursue before being reassigned from his position as chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee in May.

One bill Avella introduced in May while on the Ethics Committee requires registration and disclosure for all firms that work with both elected officials and outside clients.

Another bill, also initiated in May, mandates that political consultants cannot lobby elected officials and that lobbyists cannot engage in political consulting.

Speaking at his district office at 38-50 Bell Blvd., Avella said he “made an attempt to try and get them (bills) done for that short time that I was chair.”

He tried to convene the committee’s first meeting since at least 2009 and found out no legislation had ever been referred to the committee.

Many bills go to multiple committees because they overlap in committee jurisdiction, he said.

“Anything that has to do with reforming how Albany works should go to the Ethics Committee,” he said. “I mean, I tried to have the one and only hearing ever. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that.”

Avella is a member of the Independent Democratic Conference, a five-member faction of breakaway Democrats. He was reassigned to serve as chairman of the Children and Families Committee in June. He testified in the federal corruption trial of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, who was found guilty last month.

The package also contained proposals the senator presented when he first entered the Senate.

The proposals include mandating a limit of three consecutive four-year terms for senators and extending the legislative term from two years to four years.

In July 2008, when he was on the City Council, Avella introduced a bill that would require a fully public funding system for local campaigns. He also called for an end to an LLC loophole that allows special interest groups to donate to political campaigns without following disclosure requirements and to bypass contributing limits.

“I’ve come up with a number of recommendations that I’ve compiled over the last year on how we can make state government better,” he said. “I think everybody recognizes the need to reform Albany.”

Last week, Avella announced legislation requiring bills with co-sponsorship by the majority of House members to automatically proceed to floor vote.

Within the next few weeks, he will unveil a plan that would require pension accrued while an elected official engaged in criminal behavior to be forfeited.

In June, he proposed a draft law that would end the individual party nominating process and instead require independent nominating petitions..

Another piece of legislation would have the New York State Joint Commission on Public Ethics absorb the Legislative Ethics Commission, reduce its size from 14 to five members and create an apolitical appointment process.

Reach reporter Madina Toure by e-mail at mtoure@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4566.

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